Bellator 180 “Sonnen vs. Silva” will take place June 24, 2017 at Madison Square Garden in New York, N.Y. After so many years of threats, posturing and trash talking it’s finally time for Chael Sonnen and Wanderlei Silva to go at each other in the confines of a Bellator cage.
As it turns out Sonnen and Silva aren’t the only two fighters on this card who have a previous history in another organization.
In 2015 Phil Davis and Ryan Bader faced off at Tele2 Arena in Stockholm, Sweden. A close contest left analysts and judges alike split, with Bader emerging victorious by a narrow margin. The bout was the swan song for “Mr. Wonderful” in UFC, who would re-emerge at Bellator 142 with a pair of wins that helped propel him toward eventually claiming the Light Heavyweight title.
Perhaps seeing the success Davis had outside UFC encouraged Bader to make the same choice. Today MMA Mania talks to Phil Davis about facing his old rival in a new organization, this time with a world title on the line, and his plans to avoid another disappointing decision defeat.
First things first though — being champion has its privileges, and Davis hasn’t been shy about enjoying them since capturing the title at Bellator 163.
“Oh man, I’ve been doing a little bit of everything! Hiking, training, and just y’know, it’s great when I have time to catch up with my family. When I’m fighting every three months that means I have about a couple of weeks off and I’m back into fight camp. When I have some down time, it’s great to catch up on your family. You have to be a little selfish when you’re doing this sport. It’s great to be able to give that time back to my family.”
It’s convenient that he brought up the word “selfish” because there was clearly an opportunity to demand he should be on pay per view instead of Spike TV. Davis says he’s cool with it though.
“Oh absolutely! You know the fan base at Spike TV is awesome, and we have a great dedicated group of fans there. The pay per view is gonna be great for Bellator, and they’re gonna build it up until it’s a well tuned machine, but I tell you what — Spike TV there’s nothing broken about that. It gets great eyes, great viewership, and we have a bunch of fans that love to tune in watch us live and free on Spike TV. And no I did not practice that — it just flows!”
Davis also isn’t concerned with the fact that the judges awarded his opponent Bader a split decision victory the last time they met in Sweden.
“You know I try not to score and say ‘Oh well you know what? I had me winning that fight’ because at the end of the day what’s MOST important is that you ACKNOWLEDGE that you lost, and that you are able to grow from that and say ‘Ay - no you didn’t win and they said you lost — you LOST and you’re gonna make sure that you freaking win next time!’ That’s who I am and that’s my approach.”
It’s also apparent that Davis feels Bader is in some respects copying his game plan by leaving UFC behind to fight for Scott Coker and friends.
“Oh yeah! Oh yeah! And you know, he’s gonna have a lot of fun in Bellator as I did, but he’s not gonna have it in Madison Square Garden (*laughs*) and that is the truth. He’s gonna love his Bellator experience starting June 25th.”
Speaking of MSG, Davis is thrilled that he finally gets to fight in the ‘Big Apple’ following the legalization of MMA in New York last year.
“Newark, New Jersey — I fought there and I also fought in Baltimore — both super close but not quite in New York and now we’re there. I’m super excited that New York state decided to change their legislation and allow MMA and it’s going to be a great event.”
Davis is promising it will be great for the fans in the building AND great for the fans watching at home, with his fight being the bait on the hook that lures people in to bite on the main card.
“When they see our fight, we are the main event on Spike TV, and that fight should leave them thirsty for more fights. That’s our goal, we’re gonna put on a great fight, and that won’t be it — it’s time to order the pay per view.”
Originally Bader had a different opponent lined up for his debut, but when Muhammed “King Mo” Lawal pulled out due to an injury, Davis was happy to take this rematch to do Bellator a solid.
“I fought (Lawal) last May and beat him then, and he got injured and he wasn’t able to fight Ryan Bader, and you know me I’m just a kind guy! You know if ‘King Mo’ can’t beat up Ryan Bader, hell I’ll fill in and beat him up, don’t worry! I gotcha back (Bellator), I gotcha back! I’m not gonna let him slide!”
And just in case Bader and Lawal still meet later on down the road, Davis has a prediction for how that fight would go.
“That’s a tough fight! I think ‘King Mo’ wins that fight. It’s tough to say definitively because it all depends on whether Mo is on that night, but I think he has the better skill set.”
For those who might think “Mr. Wonderful” isn’t taking Bader seriously enough that’s not the case. Davis simply feels he’s better prepared.
“You know what I love about my fights in Bellator is that I have a good amount of time to heal up, and prepare for each fight, so each time I step in the cage I’m fresh, I’m ready, and I’m able to really grow as a fighter between fights. You don’t always get that chance (as a fighter).”
Bader has had some time off too since his victory over Antonio Rogerio Nogueira last November, but Davis says that just won’t be enough on June 24 to make a difference.
“We very well might see a completely different Ryan Bader, and either way it only elevates my game. I truthfully believe I’m in a different place where it won’t matter who shows up.”
If things go as well as Davis plans against Bader at MSG, he’s already got more competition waiting in Linton Vassell, but his answer to that to invoke a father figure of sitcom fame.
“(Vassell can) knock all he wants, I will open the door and kick him in the face. And then I’ll throw him out the house like Jazzy Jeff on the ‘Fresh Prince (of Bel Air)’.”
Much respect to the late James Avery and to “Mr. Wonderful” for the time. Make sure YOU take the time to watch his fight with Ryan Bader on June 24.
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